Archive for January, 2012


It’s a Physical Game

Confession: I don’t have a TV. One compelling reason: It would always be tuned to the mother of all sports news shows (you know which one I’m talking about). I don’t even enjoy the format of the show anymore, but I would tune in anyway because it feels like the font of all things happening in Sports Land. (Totally false, but that’s exactly how they want me — and you — to feel.  My dependence on the show is a personal weakness that I have not yet addressed…spirit is willing, flesh is weak.)

If I did have a TV, and if I were watching the show today, I would see Blake Griffin’s dunk all over it. All day long.

What Griffin did was physically marvelous. I watched the move once, twice, three times. Each time I was thrilled knowing that I was seeing something I would absolutely not be able to do. Ever. (Isn’t that one of the most basic pleasures of watching elite athletes do their kinetic thing?)

Something else I appreciate about this dunk: the post-game reaction from Kendrick Perkins, the man who was dunked on. I have always thought that there is too much attention given to a dunkee and his “posterization.” It’s not that I feel badly or embarrassed for the person on the wrong end of a monster dunk; rather, I feel that being involved in such a moment is no terrible shortcoming. In fact, it was Perkins’s job to do what he did: attempt to stop Griffin’s shot and foul him if he must. “It happens,” Perkins said, according to the LA Times Sports Now blog. “At the end of the day, if you’re a shot blocker you’re gonna get dunked on.”

So it goes, Kendrick Perkins. So it goes.


One Hell of a Match + A Touch of the Divine

photo by Martin_Borgman

In honor of the longest men’s singles Grand Slam final, in which Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal in just under six hours to win the 2012 Australian Open, here is a link to an essay about…Roger Federer.

Yes, the Federer-Nadal rivalry isn’t what it used to be (i.e., Federer lost to Nadal in the Australian Open semifinals and  hasn’t beaten Nadal in five years); nevertheless, Federer’s name is seldom left out of the conversation about the current kings of men’s tennis. Even when he’s not in the final, the play of the other competitors invites comparison with Fed’s game.

If the martial energy, power, and spectacle of endurance of the Australian Open men’s final didn’t do it for you, then perhaps an ecstatic meditation on the grace and exhilaration of Federer’s game will. Unlike his novels, this essay by David Foster Wallace will take you less time to read than a Djokovic-Nadal final takes to watch.


D-III Love

I have a soft-spot for Division III athletics, and I would be remiss not to give a digital shout-out to the University of Chicago, where fun comes to die, and where players come to flat-out PLAY.

(Watch for Phil the Phoenix at :21. Phil is the in-the-flesh mascot, though UChicago’s official name is the Maroons. Duh.)


With Apologies to Vecsey, Lipsyte, Jenkins, et al.

Artis struisvogel leest krant van oppasser / Ostrich reads newspaper of caretakerAs much as I am not a wonk about a particular sport or team, I am also not a wonk about the sportswriting* greats. I can drop names (see above; see also: Heinz, Liebling, Rice, Smith, Plimpton, Halberstam, Deford), but I know no one writer’s repertoire inside out. I have no one favorite.

But I do have a theory.

At one time or another, anyone who has ever followed a team with earnest devotion has wanted — at least for a fleeting moment — to be a sportswriter. Listen to five minutes of sports talk radio and you know that anyone and everyone feels entitled to talk about, pick apart, and obsess over sports. I would even argue that sports (and capital-S Sport) exist so we can talk about, pick apart, and obsess over them. (More on this claim later.)

I am no exception to the “anyone and everyone.” I had my own brief taste of sportswriting at my college newspaper. I wrote two features — one about a swimmer and one about a tackle — and covered the tennis team for about a week, thanks not to my own journalistic talent but to the goodwill of the section editor, who I met through the baseball guys I hung out with (Bless your heart, Sean Dizzle). I enjoyed writing about sports, but I realized that I did not have the wherewithal to report on a regular beat. Furthermore, I still thought of myself as one who played sports, not one who observed the playing of them. I wasn’t entirely wrong about that, and it would be sportswriting that would bring me back to basketball in a convergence so perfect that I hope The Fates high-fived each other. (I’ll save my return-to-basketball story for another day.)

One does not have to be a sportswriter to write about sports, but read Whitlock, MacGregor, Roberts, et al., to see it done well.

*Or do I mean sports writing (two words)? Some professionals argue that sportswriting refers to sports reporting, while sports writing is any written work about sports, including features, essays, and short fiction. Refer to Jane Leavy’s introduction to The Best American Sports Writing 2011 for a better overview of the ongoing discussion about sportswriting versus sports writing.


Cold Off the Bench

The thing about being called off the bench is that you’re seldom prepared for it. In theory, you should be ready to jump out of your skin (or tear-away pants) when you’re called upon. After all, you warmed up before tip-off and took some jumpers in the minutes between the locker room and the start of the second half. But unless you’ve been running alongside the refs all game, in practical terms, you won’t be ready to go in. Not even those ridiculous Airdyne bikes on football sidelines can save you.

But ready or not, you jump in.

When is the ideal time to start a blog about sports (besides ten years ago)? For me, the best time is right now while my hell-in-a-handbasket feeling about the world of professional and amateur athletics still burns hot, while people still care about hearing and telling stories, while the right move — on the field/court/track or on the page — can still feel like paradise.


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